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Cover Story

100 Things All Detroiters Should Do Before They Die

Our Detroit bucket list.

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Photo: Photo by Dante Stella, License: N/A

Photo by Dante Stella

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Photo by Lars Hjelmroth

Photo: Photo by Esther Rubyan, License: N/A

Photo by Esther Rubyan

Photo: Photo by Brett Carson & John Dunivant, License: N/A, Created: 2011:10:25 23:35:00

Photo by Brett Carson & John Dunivant


Who says you need to travel widely to expand your mind? Sure, when the weather is as cold and crappy as it is these days, jetting off to some balmy climate has its appeal. But we have a multitude of cool things to do right here in town, things that have the opportunity to teach us more about who we are as metro Detroiters. Sprawling over three (or three-and-a-half to us) counties, our region has hundreds of must-do things to experience, to see, smell, hear and devour.

This list, capped neatly at 100 and presented in no particular order, is our determination of everything everybody should try at least once. We aimed for events that somehow round out and complete everybody’s Detroit experience. From sports to recreation to culture high and low, you might be surprised by what’s on our list that you haven’t done yet (there are more than a few MT staffers and Detroit natives heading out this week to knock off some items they can’t believe have escaped their grasp for decades). By the time you’d tried all of them, it’s our hope you’d have challenged some preconceptions (we all have ’em), rubbed elbows with new friends, and come out wiser.

We’re aware that everybody’s would be different, and we agonized over what merited inclusion and despaired over all the items that overflowed into our sprawling also-ran list. But that’s because the area is filled with so many things to do, they’d fill several hundred weekend outings. Consider our Metro Times bucket list to be a good starting point. Take a trip through, let us know how many you’ve tried (a PDF checklist for your fridge or office cubicle can be downloaded here), and let us know what you think we missed. Enjoy.
 


1) See Detroit as it used to look at Elmwood cemetery: As cemeteries go, Elmwood is a beauty. One of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Michigan, Elmwood has been packing them in since 1846. It’s the final home to mayors, moguls and many more first citizens of Detroit, as the eminent names on the markers and tombs attest. But it’s also one of the few places in Detroit where you can see the land as it was before the age of the steam shovel. Although it did get a treatment from landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the low rolling hills and even a segment of Bloody Run Creek flowing through are original features dating from time immemorial.

2) Stop, in the name of love, at the Motown Museum: The little house with the big history on Grand Boulevard wasn’t always a museum, but so many people dropped in at Hitsville after Motown left town that it was converted into what it is today: a music museum like no other. The offices and studios are now filled with historic exhibits documenting the rise of the house Berry Gordy built.

3) Spend a Saturday morning shopping at Eastern Market: One of the last large historic outdoor urban food markets in America, the market fills up with food-loving metro Detroiters on Saturdays. The sheds are undergoing remarkable upgrades, and it seems a new attraction opens up every month in the area. Now if we could just get people with double-barrel baby carriages to not stop four abreast and talk to each other in the aisles. …

4) Picnic on Belle Isle: There are so many things to do on Belle Isle, from nature trails disc golf to the conservatory to the museums to even Hipster Beach, suffice it to say even a picnic should provide an adventure. True Detroiters know: It’s always 10 degrees cooler on our city’s island park.

5) Eat a pastry in the Guardian Building’s mezzanine: The magnificent art deco building gets its Native American color theme from designer C. Wirt Rowland, who inlaid the 40-story treasure with colorful hues. But the interiors can be just as stunning. Drop in for a bite at the Rowland Café in the building’s mezzanine to see an almost psychedelic display of geometric shapes all around you.

6) See the Tigers, though your mileage may vary on Opening Day: Seeing the Tigers play at gleaming Comerica Park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening, from the quaint crack of the bat to the 10,000-megawatt display board. But on Opening Day, most of the errors are outside the stadium, where you’ll find hundreds of drunken baseball fans littering, puking, pissing and drunk driving all over downtown. On that, we call foul.

7) Eat, bowl and see a show at the Majestic complex: For nightlife, the Majestic is one-stop shopping. Visitors can park in the pay lot behind the building, then see national and local acts in three different venues, grab a slice, order a beer, look at art, sit down and dine, or even knock down pins at Detroit’s oldest bowling alley. 

8) Ride the Critical Mass: The ride that departs from the corner of Trumbull and Warren at 7 p.m. on the last Friday of every month is a great way to meet cyclists, navigate the streets of the city in tandem with others, and maybe have a drink or two afterward. Yes, some riders are all sunglasses and spandex, but all experience levels are welcome at this genuine community event.

9) Belly up to the bar at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: Not only is historic Baker’s the oldest continuously operating jazz venue in the world, having opened in 1934, it also hosts terrific live bands. But it also has a bar worth looking over. One national magazine declared it one of the best bars in the country, with its stylish piano keyboard design. 

10) Watch an arena giant at DTE Energy Music Theatre (aka Pine Knob): The national acts this venue pulls in guarantees almost everybody will attend a show at one time or another, and the outdoor seating makes DTE Energy Music Theatre a blast in the summer. But older folks still get a thrill defying the corporate branding and enjoying a night at good ol’ Pine Knob.

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